When my husband and I first ventured into a Babies R Us, we stood mesmerized for quite a while in front of the Mamaroo. If you haven’t heard of this device, it is an infant seat that moves in 5 different patterns and has an MP3 plugin for your iWhatever. How is a new mom to decide between this $270 baby seat straight from the Jetsons and the $15 vibrating bouncy seat at her local consignment store? Here are some pro tips from expert moms on where to save and where to splurge on baby gear.

Save on These Five Baby Items

As your due date approaches, start checking out what’s on offer at your local baby and kids consignment store or Rhea Lana event. Also, talk to friends and coworkers with older babies. Chances are they have tons of gear they would be happy to part with for very cheap or free. You can save big bucks on these five baby items by buying secondhand or choosing inexpensive alternatives.

  1. Crib. This IKEA crib, at $119, looks great, sets up easily, and even converts to a toddler bed. Pro mom tip: You won’t need the crib for at least a few months if you sleep baby next to you in a rock n’ play or sidecar cosleeper.  These are items you frequently find in great shape at a consignment shop (or stored in a friend’s basement).
  2. Crib Set. It is so tempting to buy the adorable themed crib sets with the comforter, crib sheets, and bed skirt. However, you would be better off avoiding them. The little patterned blankets are for decorative purposes only, and the crib sheets that come with those sets are often thin and scratchy. Instead of spending $160 or more on a crib set, spend less than half of that on some great quality crib sheets.
  3. Baby Bathtub. These are a dime a dozen at consignment shops and sales events. You can find a great one for $8-10.
  4. Everyday Clothes. Most new moms are gifted or handed down plenty of clothes for their newborn. If you need to shop, keep an eye out for a coupon for Carter’s and stock up on comfy cotton basics. Because infant clothes quickly stain or become worn from lots of washing, this is one category where consignment isn’t the best option.
  5. Diaper Pail. Buy a trash can with a lid. Put a trash bag in it. Take it out when it stinks. The end. Unless you live in a fifth-floor walkup with no trash chute, there really is no need to package your baby’s diapers like astronaut poop.

Splurge on These Five Baby Items

You did just spend 9 (really, 10) months constructing a human being from scratch, so you do deserve to splurge on some baby items too. Here are our tips for where some extra dollars really do buy you a better product.

  1. Baby Carrier / Babywearing Device. Babywearing is great for mom and baby for lots of reasons, but it only works if everyone is comfortable. Usually local independent baby boutiques will let you try on a few different types. When you find one you love, go for it. Your baby (and back) will thank you.
  2. Cloth Diapers. If you’ve been thinking about trying cloth diapering, this is another area where the options can be overwhelming. The initial outlay of cash for a 25-diaper stash of cloth might also send you running for the disposables aisle at your grocery store. If you’re ready to take the plunge, though, go ahead and buy a stash of high quality diapers like the Bum Genius Freetime. You will be spending a lot of time dealing with diapers, so you might as well love the ones you get.
  3. Infant Car Seat. This is an essential purchase, as most hospitals will not let you take baby home without a properly installed car seat. Plus, you will tote baby around in the seat for at least 9 months and as long as 18 months, depending on how fast she grows.  Make sure it’s easy to install and adjust, and snag the stroller attachment too so you can (hopefully) get your sleeping baby from the car to the grocery and back without a hitch.
  4. Diaper Bag. No, you don’t have to buy a bag that is specifically marketed as a diaper bag. Any sturdy, roomy bag or backpack with good inside storage will work. Just make sure that you love it, because it will be your constant companion as long as your little is in diapers. (And, like Mary Poppins, you will be expected to produce anything from it at a moment’s notice.) Don’t forget to check consignment stores to potentially turn this splurge into a save!
  5. Thermometer. Babies universally hate having their temperature taken. Yes, even under their arms. And heaven help you if you try to take it, um, the other way. Although the convenient forehead thermometers are a splurge compared to the more traditional probe-style thermometers, you can find great ones for under $50. Trust us, it will pay for itself the first time you need to take your sleeping baby’s temperature.

Even strategic spenders can be overwhelmed at all the costs associated with a new baby. Check out our tips for financially planning for maternity leave.